Social media users have criticized an Australian reporter's interview with New Zealand premier Jacinda Ardern as sexist. One question was about the date of conception of her baby.
A veteran Australian journalist came under attack in media and social media on Monday for an interview with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that focused on her age, appearance and imminent motherhood – rather than her policies.
During the 13-minute segment featured in the Australian news magazine "60 Minutes" on Sunday evening, Charles Wooley said that he had "met a lot of prime ministers in my time, but none so young, not too many so smart, and never one so attractive."
He also asked Ardern, 37, who is pregnant, about the date her baby was expected, adding that it was "interesting how much people have been counting back to the conception, as it were."
"Why shouldn't a child be conceived during an election campaign?" he asked.
Ardern, who was accompanied at the interview by her partner, Clarke Gayford, appeared discomfited by the question but replied: "The election was done. Not that we need to get into those details."
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'Too much information'
Ardern said on Monday that she was taken aback by Wooley's question, but "it would be going a bit far to say I was somehow offended by it."
"It's one I think I put under the heading of too much information," she told reporters.
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New Zealand media were less accepting in their appraisal of the interview, with a columnist for the daily NZ Herald calling Wooley "incredibly and relentlessly creepy."
"It ought to come with an R18 [adults only] certificate. It ought to come with a sickbag, too," Steve Braunias wrote in an opinion piece entitled "Jacinda Ardern co-stars in new Australian horror movie."
"Only those of strong constitution will be able to stop themselves throwing up a stream of vomit that could travel the entire ditch between here and Australia," he added.
Many social media users were equally scathing, including one from Australia who apologized and compared Wooley with that "creepy uncle you need to avoid at Xmas parties."
Another said the interview made her feel "queasy."
Wooley rejected the criticism of his interview, calling it redolent of the suppression of free opinion described in George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984."
"It's a bit Orwellian you know. I think you got to be so careful with newspeak and thought crime and everything else; we suffer from the same thing in Australia," he told New Zealand's Newstalk ZB talk radio network.
Describing Ardern and Clarke as a "wonderful couple," he said that he "just loved being with them; I thought they were so much fun, such a breath of fresh air."